After paying a former Wilkes-Barre City administrator $34,460 for part-time work from January 9 to April 13, or on average $2,600 a week, the city Parking Authority voted to cap its fees for consultants – sort of.
The authority, which agreed enough is enough – sort of, voted to only spend another $10,000 on consulting fees until Phase 2 begins. For all we know, Phase 1 is over anyway.
J.J. Murphy might as well place “Esquire” after his name. Just like a lawyer, he submits bills if he sneezes on behalf of his client. He actually had the audacity to charge his fee of $300 per hour for reading e-mails from local newspaper reporters, who more than likely had some questions about his bills.
Murphy, to date, submitted four time sheets, to the parking authority, no holds barred – until Thursday when the authority finally got around to reining in his golden goose.
“We can’t have an open-ended contract,” said authority member Ed Katarsky. THANK YOU, because since December, that’s exactly what the authority had, and Murphy seemed to take full advantage of it after he recommended his brother’s Philadelphia law firm to lead the team to pursue a plan to lease the city’s parking assets. Brother Patrick’s law firm then hired J.J., and the billings piled up – $107,000 for Phase 1.
Add to that another $10,000 for Phase I, which seems to be nothing more than putting out feelers to see who might be interested in paying the city a minimum $20 million to take over its parking garages and meters.
We can’t help but wonder why the city didn’t simply run some ads in The Wall Street Journal or in relevant trade magazines:
”The city of Wilkes-Barre is looking for someone to lease its $28 million Intermodal Transportation Center and some garages and meters for the next 30 to 50 years, but we want no less than $20 million up front. Any takers? If interested, call city Mayor Tom Leighton, aka TML.
Thankfully, on Thursday the parking authority also put on hold Fox Rothschild’s decision to hire yet another consultant, Desman Associates. Unfortunately, unlike J.J. Murphy, that Chicago company is actually a specialist in parking planning.
Much to his credit, authority member Katarsky, told Fox Rothschild attorney Alan Wohlstetter, “You said you had the expertise and all we hear is consultants, consultants, consultants.”
The Times Leader was forced to file a right-to-know request to get J.J. Murphy’s four time sheets, which netted him $6,050 for 20.1 hours of services from Jan. 9-16; $6,330 for 21.1 hours from Jan. 17-31; $8,130 for 27.1 hours from Feb. 21 to March 15 and a whopping $13,950 from March 18 to April 13 - or $13,950 for 27 days of part-time work.
In an e-mail to TL Staff Writer Bill O’Boyle, (which will likely be listed on his next time sheet), Murphy said his fee is “based on my contribution to the value the city and the Parking Authority derive from this project.” This is a $20 million plus project plan, mind you, and he is actually tying his worth to that value?
By the way, there must be an alarm clock in the project meeting room in Philly because all 9 meetings lasted exactly 7 hours, or $2,100 a pop for J.J.
How much do you want to bet that once that last $10,000 for Phase 1 is depleted, there will be no further project meetings until Phase 2 kicks in, if there is a Phase 2.
At least the Parking Authority has finally taken notice of the gravy train that was traveling non-stop from Wilkes-Barre to Philadelphia. And you’ll be happy to know that so had Mayor Tom Leighton, sort of.
It’s right there on J.J.’s April 15th $13,950 time sheet for 20 days of part-time work.
Wilkes-Barre’s former city administrator actually billed the authority for taking a “Call from TML on compensation concerns.”
Although it is possible that it wasn’t his buddy J.J.’s compensation that TML was concerned about, or maybe the mayor just didn’t get through to J.J., because after that April 5 call, Murphy went on to rack up more than $1,500 of consulting fees, including ”Multiple calls with,” among others, The Citizens’ Voice and The Times Leader.
- Betty Roccograndi